Perhaps the most satisfying reaction we can get from a user is fear. I’ve looked forward to this article for quite some time now. Fear is a powerful emotion and it is often one of the hardest to invoke through a medium that ensures the safety of an individual. You typically have a set number of lives, and even if you lose all your lives you can start the game over again. There is nothing to fear if you have nothing to lose. To get around this security blanket and still infect a player with a sense of dread, to me as an entertainer, is the ultimate success in gaming.
Lock the door, Snuggle teddy and cry for mommy we’re turning the lights out.
Difference between Terror and Horror
The primary difference between Terror and Horror is anticipation and realization.
Terror is described as the sense of dread and anxiety building up to a moment of horror. You’ve known terror if you’ve ever sat in a line for a frightening roller coaster. Your palms get sweaty, your heart rate increases, adrenaline begins coursing through your body triggering the fight or flight mechanism. You are anxious in anticipation of an event that you perceive as threatening.
Horror is the residual feelings left over from an unpleasant occurrence. Horror comes from seeing, hearing, or other form of experiencing something frightening. Horror is the plunge, when you’re at the tallest peak of the roller coaster, gliding gracefully over the crest and plummeting into weightlessness. The shock of the experience is what makes horror. It can last moments, days or a life time depending on how traumatic the experience was.
Terror is uncertainty. The mind is far more capable of dreaming up terrifying things than we could make ourselves. The best way to scare someone is to allow them the environment to scare themselves. We can build up this environment using the traditional methods; eerie music, sounds of an unknown enemy approaching, an ominous objects that suggests a gruesome fate. We can add elements of the supernatural and the superhuman and a sense of impending doom to the plot to expand the realm of possibility. The more options we provide them, the more vivid and terrifying the images they will conjure. The key to terror is mind games. What kind of mind games can we play to cultivate our victims’ uncertainty? Here are a few suggestions and maybe an explanation or two on why they work.
- People are afraid of what they don’t know and what they don’t see. What people imagine is always going to be more terrifying than what you show them. Don’t let them get a good look at that terrifying monster chasing them, keep them moving forward but remind them that ‘something’ is always there just out of reach.
- Create a ticking clock. Clocks are scary! What is the scariest part of taking a test? The impending doom of a deadline you know you can’t meet. Each second ticking away constantly reminding you that you need to work faster. Don’t allow people the luxury of getting to rest and exploring without something pressing them forward. Make each moment they take valuable to them and the anxiety of wasting time will slowly gnaw away at their sanity.
Horror is a frightful realization or experience. Horror is a little easier to produce than terror. A startling appearance or a mind numbing recognition that something terrible has happened is all that it takes. These range from anything as emotionally shallow as something popping out at you at an unexpected moment to a much deeper and profound understanding of event you are involved in. That ghost popping out of the closet was frightening for a moment yeah, but my sleepless nights are haunted by the idea that the world I live in isn’t real. I killed them and I’ve created this pseudo world to avoid living with that fact. All the while my subconscious mind is clawing its way into my consciousness with terrifying revelations of the monster that I had become. It’s obvious which one of those scenarios you want to use right? Trick question, use them both. If you really want to keep someone on edge you need to startle as well as create emotional turmoil. What are some interesting ways to induce horror in your intended victim?
- It has been proposed that a person learns to fear something regardless of whether they themselves have experienced the event or if they have witnessed another experiencing the event. Using this principal we can subject other individuals to gruesome fates, torture and fear knowing that it will result in transference from them to our victim. This will create an aversion to these events in the mind of our victim and the horror of what awaits them will be amplified by the anxiety of terror. We have now combined the two sides of the coin in a most effective way.
- You don’t always have to be as abrupt as popping out of a closet to startle someone, and it doesn’t always have to be a perceived enemy doing the startling. It will keep people on their toes to have friend and foe alike startling them. (Though I prefer not to allow individuals the amenity of a friend, they are far too comforting)
- Not being able to fight back is perhaps one of the most despairing features of a horror game. If all that you can do is muster the strength to run and hide from a threat you will succumb to desperation. That desperation will quickly breed a colony of infectious horror.
Gorror is a relatively new arriver to the scene of entertainment. Gorror is a mix between Gore and Horror. Gorror is simply revulsion, presenting something blood curdling that inspires a feeling of illness to the witness. This can be highly effective, though as of late frequently over-used. You may have seen this over the progression of the “Saw” series of movies. The first movie contained a great deal of gore, but it was equally balanced with an intellectually stimulating plot full of twists and human suffering. As the series progressed the plot shifted away from terror and horror and almost exclusively into gore. This can be highly dangerous in that it is easy for an individual subjected to one experience repeatedly to become desensitized to it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use gore, I’m just saying you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively. If possible one should use terror, horror and gorror in a triumvirate reign of fear to get the most out of the genre.